Thursday, August 16, 2018

Long Live The Queen

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) by Aretha Franklin and George Michael

She had been recording for over 25 years and she was the undisputed Queen of Soul but in the mid to late 70's her star had faded slightly as the musical landscape had shifted to rock. But the musicians of the 80's had grown up listening to this legend and were happy to see her star beginning to shine again. In 1985 she had released her first platinum album, Who's Zooming Who and she was back in the charts. 

And so her fans came calling....including a guy that had just had his first solo hit and wanted to prepare the world for his first solo album. George Michael called upon his musical hero to duet with him on this single that he never released it on any of his albums....he let her release it and it went to the #1 spot on the charts in 8 countries, including the UK and the US. It also won the Grammy for best R&B Performance.

The video shows how much George idolizes Aretha. It also shows how impressive she is as a singer. She blows the doors off the building when she lets loose. George makes every attempt to match her skills but not many could come close to the Queen's level. Still, its a special moment for someone that was obviously a fan, as George was.

Please enjoy...

Sunday, June 3, 2018

That Bono Is A Trouble Maker.

Where The Streets Have No Name by U2

Released in late August 1987, this was the third single from their monster breakthrough album, The Joshua Tree. It reached #13 on the US charts and is one of their signature live songs.

The song is based around a repeating, delayed guitar part that guitarist, The Edge, called the best guitar part he'd ever written. The song itself proved to be very difficult to record, so much so, that at one point the record producer arranged to "accidentally" erase the recordings so the band would have to start over. The studio engineer intervened and the band pressed on with the recordings. The band felt that they'd recorded a decent enough version of the song to include on the album but if you've ever seen U2 live, this is only about 20% of what this song can be.

The video was filmed in downtown Los Angeles in an area that isn't really the best venue for live music....on top of a liquor store on the corner of 7th and main St. The morning of the video shoot, several local DJ's had promoted the event and had made wild predictions about the size of the crowds, even reaching the ridiculous number of 30,000 people. As the time to begin filming approached, only about 1,000 people had arrived but even that number was enough to fill up all the sidewalks across the street from the liquor store. The police, fearful that huge crowds were only moments away from arriving, decided to shut down the filming......the band and the video crew started playing and filming anyway.

Unlike what is depicted in the video, the band was able to play eight songs (including 4 full versions of Where The Streets Have No Name) because the police allowed the filming to continue for fear that the crowd would turn into a mob if they didn't get to see something being filmed. Eventually, Bono encouraged the crowd to cross the street and block off traffic and that caused the police to cut the power.....except.....the band had anticipated that happening and had set up an emergency generator on the roof so they could continue playing. Bono had hoped to be arrested and pulled off the roof in handcuffs in a classic Rockstar moment but when an officer arrived on the roof, the band just walked back away from the edge and the filming ended.

One of my favorite parts of the video is the guitar that Edge uses.....

…....I have a copy of the same guitar in the exact same color. Mine will never sound as good as his and I'm still miles away from writing the best guitar part in my life. I'm not jealous....he's got real talent.

Please enjoy.....

Thursday, May 17, 2018

And This Is Why I Don't Go Hiking

The eruption of Mount St. Helens. May 18th, 1980

Located in Southern Washington state, Mount St. Helens is part of the Cascade Volcanic arc, a ring of mountains across the Pacific Northwest that contains nearly 20 active volcanos. Having been silent for almost 130 years, it was not considered to be much of a threat to the surrounding area. But all that changed in the early spring of 1980.

A series of earthquakes and steam venting had brought attention to the mountain and with it, fears that an eruption was eminent. Throughout the month of April, the north side of the mountain began to bulge and infrared photography indicated that lava was beginning to build in the throat of the volcano and that an eruption was possible. At one point, a blue flame of burning gases was seen in a crater near the summit!!

The State ordered evacuations and while most people complied, there were a few that insisted on staying, including Harry Truman (no, not the former President), owner of the Mount St. Helens lodge which stood on the shore of Spirit Lake at the base of the North side of the mountain. Also remaining in the area were several photographers and geologists.

On the morning of May 18th the unthinkable happened. At 8:32 AM an earthquake occurred just below the surface of the North face of the mountain causing the entire face to slide. The resulting landslide was the largest in recorded history. Traveling at 125 miles per hour, it temporarily displaced the water in Spirit lake and caused a 600 foot tall wave of water to crash into the north shore of the lake.

While that was happening, the magma inside the volcano was exposed to much lower pressure and a series of explosions occurred as super-heated gases, ash, pumice and rock were directed up and out of the landslide, following it down the face of the mountain. Commonly referred to as pyroclastic flows, they reached nearly 670 miles per hour and destroyed everything in their path. The sure-heated flow caused the water in Spirit lake to instantly flash into steam and cause a secondary explosion that was heard as far away as northern California.

Trees in the path were flattened. Here's a picture of what had been a rather majestic forest only a few days before...

Approximately 57 people were killed, including Harry Truman and the others that stayed on the mountain to record what happened. To this day, the mountain continues to vent steam and ash. It still has a large lava dome inside its crater and could erupt again.

Here's a picture of the mountain the day before the eruption...

And here's a picture from the same location after the eruption....

That's nearly 1,300 feet shorter in less than 2 minutes with a 2,100 feet deep crater left behind.
And here's a video of the actual eruption put together from still photos of it as it occurred...

Don't mess with Mother Nature.....she's bigger and tougher than you and she'll blow off the entire side of a mountain to prove it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

She Should Have Called It #3

True Blue by Madonna

Released in September of 1986, this song had a lucky number. The #3. It was the third single from her third album. It reached #3 in the US and stayed there 3 weeks. Sadly that's four #3's. Would have been really cool if there was only three #3s but what are ya gonna do?

The song was written as a love song to her then husband, Sean Penn. By the time the video was filmed, they were in the middle of a divorce, so maybe not so True Blue? Its composed as a retro throw-back song in the doo-wop style. While the lyrics are a love song to Sean, the music is a love song to the girl groups of the 50's and 60's that Madonna grew up loving and imitating.

The video even looks like a 50's doo-wop tribute. She's in a 50's diner, singing in a 50's convertible with her 50's style backup singers. Of the three back up singers (there's that lucky number again) one is her choreographer/best friend and was in 4 other videos for Madonna. Another is an actress who has been on Entourage (I never saw it) and was once Pee Wee Herman's girlfriend (like that's not super weird). She's in the dark blue shirt and was also in 4 other Madonna videos and was originally hired to do Madonna's hair and makeup on Madonna's very first video, Everybody. The third girl....No idea who she is.

Madonna changed her look for this video (surprise!!) and she had recently started working out and getting much more fit. I'm guessing her impending divorce had something to do with that. In any event, She always looked great to me, but this is an especially good look (I'm just sayin').

Please enjoy...


Sunday, April 22, 2018

I'm Sorry, This Counts As The 1980's

Regatta de Blanc by The Police

Released in October of 1979 (one of many reasons it should count as an 80's album) this was the band's second album and after the initial success of their first album, the band was anxious to build on the quality musical catalogue they were already building. Recorded over 4 weeks and at a cut-rate budget of @$10,000 (that's a small amount, even for 1979), the band was able to maintain creative control over the album and express their talents without any record label interference.

The band is in a whole other world from their first album, continuing the punk-rock aggression while expanding on the reggae rhythms and taking the song writing and lyrics to a whole new level. Consider that this is essentially a band with 4 lead singers: (1) the vocals of Sting, (2) his Bass, (3) Andy Summers guitar and (4) the drums of Stewart Copeland. All 4 elements are vying for the attention of the listener. And in most cases, they all win. I'm still amazed that I can listen to this album and hear new sounds coming from one of the "singers" in this band.

The album reached #1 in England but only reached #25 in the US. Its been listed among the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine (I agree with them). Also the band brought home the Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for the song Regatta de Blanc.

There were 4 singles released from this album, with Message In A Bottle being the first and among all 3 members of the band, its considered to be the best Police song they ever recorded (I also agree with them).

The video is typical for the time with some live shots of the band and the guys singing along to the song backstage. It only takes a few moments to see that drummer, Stewart Copeland is quite the ham and quite possibly the most annoying person in the band. His antics are meant to bother Sting while Andy just waits for everyone to stop being it any wonder they eventually broke up? But no matter what, the song is amazing as well as the rest of the album (go get a copy, if you don't already own one) and please.....enjoy it now.

Friday, April 20, 2018

If This Doesn't Make You Dance...You May Be Dead

One Step Beyond by Madness

Released in late 1979.............why are you still reading??....GO, LISTEN NOW!!!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Can You See Me In The Crowd?

Depeche Mode
101 -  Concert For The Masses
Live At The Rose Bowl

June 18th, 1988....this was the most anticipated concerts of the year. I was actually at this concert. Here's my ticket....

The band was coming through town to support, what was, at that time, their biggest album, Music For The Masses. The band always a had special place in its heart for Los Angeles as the local radio station, KROQ, was an early and committed supporter. In fact, they had announced the concert live on the air one morning in mid spring from the stadium with Richard Blade, the morning radio host on KROQ at the time.

Here's a picture of a few of the band members on the morning of the announcement in the empty stadium with the section I ended up sitting in in the background.....

To fill the stadium, the band would have to sell over 56,000 tickets......they ended up selling over 60,000!!! Let me give you an idea of how the stadium looked on the morning of the concert before they let the crowd in.....

That's lead singer, Dave Gahan, with his young son.

The concert was amazing. The opening bands were Wire (I don't remember them), Thomas Dolby (who was and is, Always, great) and Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark (great set that day). It had been hot during the day and the Rose Bowl had zero shade so we were all out in the sun the whole time. As the sun set and Depeche Mode's set got closer to starting, the crowd started to entertain themselves. At one point there was a brief trash-throwing melee which looked fun from up where I was above all of it. Then the crowd got into a fun shouting match, where one side would yell, "tastes great!" and the other side would yell, "less filling!" (its a Miller Lite commercial from the era and we were bored waiting).

Here's what the crowd looked like from just above my seat....

Now, Depeche Mode's performance was not what any of them consider to be their best (they've all said as much in interviews over the years) but you couldn't have found one person in the crowd that would agree with that assessment. The energy in the stadium was beyond electric and it was helped along when it started to briefly rain (it sure helped wash the hot air out of the stadium). The rain occasionally has been reported to have occurred during Blasphemous Rumours. I remember it starting during Sacred and continuing through the next 2 songs, Something To Do and Blasphemous Rumours. During Something To Do, the storm announced itself with a bolt of lightening that lit up most of the sky just to the south of the stadium. If you listen closely to the live album of the show, you can hear the crowd let out a huge cheer when the lightning strikes. Imagine what would happen today if 60,000 people were outside in a lightning storm.....they would cancel the show and send everyone home immediately. It would have been pandemonium. Thankfully, we lived in a less safety conscious time and the show was not stopped.

The best moment of the show was at the end of the main set during the song Never Let Me Down Again when Dave Gahan got the entire crowd waving their arms back and forth above their heads. It was an amazing, spontaneous moment and its now a permanent part of each live Depeche Mode show. The neat part is that the band was filming (and recording) the show that night for inclusion in a documentary film called 101 and so most of the show exists on video. I say "most" because the film makers didn't intend to film the whole show so there are a few songs missing from the film. But if you watch the video below, and you have really sharp eyes (like much better than me and I KNOW where I was sitting), you can see me in the crowd during the part when Dave is leading the crowd in waving their arms.

Please enjoy this amazing moment........